The 80’s by Merchandise. The missing piece of the golden decade.
A combination of Echo & The Bunnymen, The Smiths and Dire Straits. Not since The Killers release Hot Fuss, all the way back in 2004, has the 80’s revival ever been so prominent. Now any band who ‘has something about them’ is taking a crack at this sacred decade. With After The End, you’ve got what seems like Carson Cox’s Hot Fuss; a deliriously beguiling, indie pop, 10 track stunner, that evokes emotions of which you didn’t know even existed within you. Calling After The End, Hot Fuss, feels like a slight injustice as lets face it, about half way through, Hot Fuss got boring. It’s more of in the ranks of, The Queen Is Dead and Sam’s Town. Let me explain.
The parallel universe to Tampa Bay’s 80’s indie scene seems to have been discovered within After The End. Even to the civilians of Florida, let alone those of the rest of the USA; Tampa Bay has never been regarded as a scene for alluring, new music. Yet somehow, Carson Cox forced his way out of Sigourney Weaver’s ribs as a reptilian, alien monster, to come and fight for Tampa Bay’s music scene. (Alien just sounded about 20 times better, admit it). Although After The End isn’t connected to Ridley Scott’s ground breaking, Alien, in the sense of Carson Cox being ‘the’ alien; the just, pre 80’s classic does share some of its magic with the Floridian’s 5th album.
The artwork for After The End is the prime example. When I look at that mounted cube, I can’t help but expect to have a creepy alien burst out at me. It is however, a key symbol to Merchandise’s magic. The illusion of the unknown. Edward Said’s theory of the ‘other’. You know what’s going to be on record, but you don’t. It’s like The Exorcist. 1970’s America knew of the Middle East, but not what lied within. And that was my last film reference. I promise.
From the word go, after the bands gargantuan, 14 minute track Begging For Your Life/In The City Light release, (to celebrate signing for 4ad) the aim for the next era of Merchandise was to re-brand as a pop band. Not like a pop band from now though, more on the lines of The Smiths, but hopefully Carson doesn’t become like Steven, because only being able to call him Cox would be a bit weird.
So debunk any idea you had of Merchandise being either a: hardcore band/post punk band/ punk band/hipster band. Natural selection has evolved Merchandise to adapt to the true survivor in the battle of music genres. Pop. Like any evolutionary chain, the previous evolutions print is still on the latest version. The webbed feet of Children Of Desire is still a prominent feature on After The End with its neo 80’s style, with the slight appearance of the hardcore styled, tail bone of Gone Are The Silk Gardens Of Youth. After The End is the most intelligent and advanced form Of Merchandise to date, as they’ve escaped the underground stage and the now overused, WU-LYF, avoid everything stage, and headed straight to the, we’re just going to make good music… stage. Thankfully that analogy is over as will be the wait for After The End, come August 25th.
After The End’s story began with the first, illusive track, Little Killer, a post 80’s indie, guitar fueled, fuzzed up, piece of pristine pop music. The tempo of Little Killer is its most illusive factor when in comparison to the rest of After The End; although the short pieced riffs fuse together with the chorus, slight elevated riffs for a 21st century take on This Charming Man, but with a soul clenching, tenor-baritone vocal. When placed next to Little Killer, After The End as a whole prefers a slower, but still moving rhythm, capturing the traditional essence of Merchandise’s slow burning perfection, found largely on last years stunning, Totale Night.
However, After The End as an album, begins with the irresistibly, dreamy opener, Corridor, the golden mirage of the perfect Merchandise opener. It’s the Intro to The xx’s, XX, the Interlude to Foals, Holy Fire, it’s the next in the line of superb, album openers. Informed to fade out by a second long drum roll, Corridor is immediately transformed into the rejuvenated, Enemy, as the collaboration of electric guitars and acoustic creates the exact replica of an 80’s hit.
This 80’s haze surrounding After The End is fragranced with neo pop melodies, which remain resilient against the musky smells of Echo & The Bunnymen and Rick Astley, as Green Lady bridges the portals between 21st century, 80’s pop and 20th century, 80’s pop, with a kaleidoscope of pop, post punk and neo pop tones, infused onto the repeating cowbell loop, for pure 80’s, nostalgic prescience.
After The End’s true, harmonious bliss though,comes from three tracks in particular. Life Outside The Mirror, After The End and Exile and Ego. As mind warping as a Perfumed Genius song, Life Outside The Mirror leaves Earth altogether, as atmospheric, distant tones, seep further away from your ears, slowly draining all of the focus from your brain for a agonizingly beautiful, near five minutes.
On the albums closers After The End and Exile and Ego; a collective eleven and a half minutes, reimburse previous Merchandise fans with exhilarating build ups, with dramatic piano chords struck heavily, underneath the harsh beat of an authoritative drum, as Carson’s vocals ooze liquid gold for the six and half minutes of After The End. Exile and Ego on the other hand, feels as distant to After The End (the track), as possible; with a golden sun, setting beneath the Atlantic ocean, while gentle synth tones, trickle fairy dust upon your ears. With a lonely acoustic guitar, and heart on his sleeve, Carson Cox plays out the remaining four and half minutes, as distant echoed ooh’s play in sequence, fading out, to end one of the most stunning LPs, I’ve ever had the honour, to listen to.